Fiction and the Internet are strange bed-fellows. So how exactly do you construct a story that will get noticed amid the vast sea of information? It’s not easy, but it can be done.
BY JACK SUTHERLAND
Web Readers Skim, they do not Read
Web readers are very different from consumers of traditional prose. Web readers skim, and are always ready to leap to something else the moment a piece isn’t meeting their demands. Basically, they have a kind of ADHD.
To counter this, web authors need to get it done quickly. Flash stories, or Short Shorts, are likely to have the most success online. Keeping your story shorter than 500 words or so (roughly the length of the average web article) is the best way to ensure it gets read all the way through.
People seeking out web fiction specifically are often willing to settle in for a long(er) read, but the desire for instant gratification isn’t easily suppressed.
Your Story Must Resonate with Readers
Even if your story is short, the reader isn’t going to stick with it if your piece isn’t resonating with them. The tight-rope stretched between brief and relatable is the one your web fiction must walk.
Say you have roughly five to six sentences in which to engage your reader before they hit that back button and choose something else from the list. The reader is going to skim those sentences, and that is all the time you have to hold up some kind of reflective surface and show them something that hits home.
We’re all looking for a sense of belonging, and the internet offers an excellent platform for us to provide that. We just have to do it quickly and well.
“We just have to do it quickly and well.”
Push the Boundaries
No matter how good your web fiction is, if it’s still just black words on a white page, readers can get the same thing from a book. What’s more, reading from paper is more comfortable and easier on the eyes. So why should readers exert more effort to read your stuff online?
The answer is that the web allows writers to push boundaries and go further than traditional prose writers ever could. A story presented online can be accompanied by a soundtrack, can be comprised of Twitter comments, or could even be told in memes.
Check out this story – ‘An Inventory At The End of The World’, by Joyce Chong. It’s a post-apocalyptic envisioning presented within an online feedback form.
Web Fiction must be Meaningful
The last thing web fiction needs to do is what all fiction needs to do. Your story should endeavour to uncover some deeper significance for the reader.
If relatability is what hooks the reader, deeper meaning is what makes it stay with them for days after. If you’re lucky, it might even be what makes them seek out more work from that one writer who was able to shine a little light into the void that day.
“If you’re lucky, it might even be what makes them seek out more work from that one writer who was able to shine a little light into the void that day.”
Article by The Writers College Writing for the Web graduate, Jack Sutherland. Read his blog here: http://livelaughkorea.blogspot.co.za/
Photo Credit: Flicker.com, Anonymous Account